Pastel Pâté by Spencer Wile
Nicolas loved art class. He always looked forward to spending time with construction paper, glue, and pasta. The inky smell of watercolors entranced him. He wondered how adding a little water to the colored circles could make such a distinct smell. Mrs. De Saint Shivers had that same smell, and the long dress down to her Birkenstocks made her seem different than other teachers to Nicolas. Shing! Shing! Whenever she came to the classroom, the rows of tin bangles softly clinked together as she sauntered in. She seemed mysterious and sometimes frightened Nicolas when she shouted,“You’re doing it wrong! I told you, brush across! Jesus… Don’t eat the crayons!”
Tired of punching colored pegs into the lite-brite machine, Nicolas grabbed a bunch of macaroni and sat down with some construction paper. The fermented smell of the Elmer’s glue burned his nostrils. He went for the crayons. Nicolas focused on a design of colored scribbles. Suddenly the red stick of wax called to him. Unaware of what he was doing, he brought the crayon to his mouth and took a small bite. A waxy, tasteless flavor filled his tongue. He cringed in disgust but thought that the other colors couldn’t be so bad. He tried lemon yellow but didn’t get any citrus. And, so far, they didn’t seem as bad as the food in the cafeteria. After a last taste with plum, he’d given up on any flavor actually being in them.
When Nicolas went into the first grade, he used a medium that changed his life forever. “Today, we are going to use French pastels,” said Mrs. De Saint Shivers, as if they were almost too precious for children to be using. She cautioned the children, as much as they’d like to try, not to even think about eating them. Of course when Nicolas heard this, he glared at the sheen on the oily exterior of the one she held in her hand. And then, Nicholas got a whiff of the deep fragrance. It made his head tingle.
There were so many shades of color that Nicolas could hardly contain himself. He grabbed them two at a time and relished in the smooth glide of the pastels. The toxic aroma put him under a spell. He took a bite out of one that looked like it might have an apple flavor. His stomach rumbled and he got lightheaded. All Gerald could hear was laugher as he watched his hands make the landscape of his dreams. He continued to take small bites of the green and purple pastels.
“My God! He’s a Picasso,” said Mrs. De Saint Shivers as she held his drawing closer. She started mumbling something about how it was impossible for a child in the first grade to create such movement and depth. While she held his drawing in her hands, Nicholas started to see blotches of purples and greens in his vision. He thought he a heard lego-man tell him that the third key to the time-gate lies in the valley at dawn.
Nicholas continued to draw with passion; his picture told an ancient story. His classmate Maki saw bite marks on the pastels that he was using. “Are you eating doze Nicolas? Mrs. Dashantafurs told us no,” she said. “I need to feel the waves to make the moon glow,” responded Nicolas.
Mrs. De Saint Shivers was so impressed that she called Nicolas’ mother. She thought that she might like to know her son was gifted. In the meantime, Nicolas began to feel sick. His head got hot and he started to sweat. Now the pastels had lost their attraction. He couldn’t stand to look at them and went into the corner to cry.
Gerald heard his mother’s voice when she came into the classroom and stopped sobbing. Mrs. De Saint Shivers was excited to show Nicolas’ mother what he’d drawn. “Wow! Nicky! Did you do this?” his mother asked. He walked over to where they were standing. And when he saw the oily glare of his drawing, he dispersed all the color he had inside himself onto his picture. Nicolas decided he’d had enough of art for the day and wanted to go home.